The World's First Review of Budweiser Prohibition Brew Non-Alcoholic Beer
I had the chance to be at the world-wide launch for Budweiser Prohibition Brew in downtown Toronto yesterday and sampled the new offering. AB-InBev is putting the might of its marketing machine behind this launch in Canada which is being touted as a test market for the product in advance of a potential global roll-out. Yesterday in front of Union Station in Toronto they had the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales on display while handing out free samples to the public. Prohibition Brew is expected to be available in national grocery stores (BUY HERE) soon as well at Pizza Nova locations so you can enjoy a near beer with a slice of pizza. A spokesperson also added that Budweiser Prohibition Brew may be available in the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre soon, Toronto's major sports venues, so you can enjoy a near beer while watching a live sporting event or concert.
This is all good news for people who enjoy the taste of beer but want to avoid alcohol. It raises the profile of non-alcoholic beer, will potentially open new markets and will broaden the conversation about non-alcoholic beer as a legitimate beverage alternative. The negative stigma surrounding non-alcoholic beer is deeply ingrained in North American society – a connection encouraged by big brewers after prohibition including by Anheuser-Busch. But now with AB-InBev reversing course on non-alcoholic beer, with a goal of 20% of its global sales coming from no-and-low alcohol products by 2025, can Budweiser Prohibition Brew reverse this stigma? If it plans on doing this it will need a great product as well as the name and marketing budget that it certainly does have. So here's my review of Prohibition Brew:
Branding (10/10): The branding of the Prohibition Brew is excellent with one colleague commenting that the look reminded him of newsprint from the 1920’s or 1930’s which I think is what Budweiser was going for. The black and white can is only disturbed by “Non-Alcoholic” printed in red capital letters.
Ingredients (5/10): The first ingredient of the Prohibition Brew is De-Alcoholized Beer. This struck me as odd as I’m used to seeing water as the first ingredient followed by malt, hops, and yeast rather than beer as an ingredient itself. The other ingredients are malt extract, natural flavours, hop extract, and phosphoric acid. So this is not a beer made in the tradition of the German Beer Purity Law of 1516. The front of the can also mentions rice as an ingredient but not on the ingredients listing.
Nutritional Value (1/10): A single 355ml or 12oz. serving contains a whopping 150 calories! That’s more than a can of Coca-Cola Classic and many alcoholic beers in the 4%-5% alcohol range. By comparison most of our non-alcoholic beers contain between 55 and 90 calories per serving and Partake Brewing's Non-Alcoholic IPA boasts only 10 calories per 355ml can. Rounding out the nutritional facts table there are 0 grams of Fat, 40mg of Sodium, 36 grams of Carbohydrate, 2g of Sugar, and 1 gram of Protein per can.
Taste (5/10): Budweiser is saying that Prohibition Brew tastes the same as its regular Budweiser. I would like this to be the case but unfortunately my taste buds just couldn’t accept that. As someone who enjoys European lagers and craft ales I had a hard time drinking one as it seemed far too sweet. This may in fact be what Budweiser tastes like without the alcohol to create a drier taste but it doesn’t translate well enough in my opinion to make the claim. This is average for the category and doesn’t really differentiate itself from the other products on store shelves apart from the packaging.
Overall (5/10): Prohibition Brew is an average non-alcoholic beer and is similar in taste to Molson Excel, O’Douls and the many private label store brands – perhaps because they make these too. Certainly the packaging is cooler but that is offset by the high caloric value and eyebrow raising ingredients. If someone offered me one at a party I would happily accept it and that may be the true value of this non-alcoholic beer – accessibility and awareness – because more and more people are drinking and enjoying near beer every day.